Last Monday, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sent coach John Harbaugh to face the media after Ray Rice was cut in the wake of the notorious elevator video. This Monday, Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf gave G.M. Rick Spielman the short straw of facing tough, hostile questions from reporters who couldn’t reconcile the facts of the Adrian Peterson case with the convenient insistence on honoring the “due process” rights were designed to protect citizens from being incarcerated unfairly.
Bisciotti eventually spoke, in a less public context. The Wilfs likely will, too, at some point. But it’s one thing to face the music when it’s the loudest. It’s quite another to carefully engineer the condition of a one-on-one interview once the dust begins to settle.
That’s the way it’s been for the past nine days. Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t conduct a press conference; the league office hand-picked a pair of reporters for interviews, one on camera and one by phone. Bisciotti likewise didn’t sit at a table or stand at a podium and answer whatever questions the assembled press had.
Look for Zygi Wilf, Mark Wilf, or both to eventually do the same, selecting the right person in the right situation to allow them to get the message out without having to confront the open-season fray into which they thrust Spielman on Monday.
And it’ll keep happening that way, as long as we fail to demand that owners be accountable for their decisions and actions not by sending letters to fans or having a conversation with a sympathetic or grateful ear but by walking to the microphone and inviting anyone and everyone to ask whatever question they have.
The decision of Goodell, Bisciotti, and the Wilfs to hide from the media confirms that the NFL currently is under siege. Maybe if they decide to stop acting that way and to provide candid answers to all questions, the league will begin to emerge from its current hole.
Until then, the league just keeps digging.